UNSMIL Speeches and Stories
Statement of SRSG Martin Kobler to the Security Council 13 September 2016
Addressing Burning Questions”
السيد الرئيس اسمحوا لي أن أتكلم قليلاً في العربية. أنا اتمنى لكل المسلمين وللشعب الليبي خصوصاً كل عام وانتم بخير. عيد الأضحى هو يوم المصالحة ويوم السلام ونحن هنا اليوم. كل عام وانتم بخير للشعب الليبي وللمسلمين في كل الدنيا
[First of all, Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to wish a very joyous and blessed Eid Al-Adha to all those who celebrate and in particular to all Libyans. It is a day for reconciliation, a day to reunite in peace.]
I would also like to congratulate New Zealand for presiding over the Security Council this month.
Since my last briefing to you, the paradox of Libya has become even more apparent. The country has a tremendous potential, immense natural resources and a young population eager to reshape its future.
And yet, instead of making use of all these blessings, long lines of Libyan men and women wait in the heat in front of banks to withdraw their daily limit of 200 dinars – about 40 dollars - to cover the rising costs of the basic necessities.
Faced with few prospects to earn a livelihood, rampant insecurity and endemic corruption, the temptation for the young to leave the country or join armed groups can be overwhelming.
This is not a foundation on which to build a stable country. It is high time that the Libyans join forces to urgently address the burning political, security and economic problems of Libya.
Given the military events of the last days I would like to briefly update the Council along the following four points:
1. The worrying security situation,
2. The political momentum created by the recent decision of the House of Representatives,
3. The need for national reconciliation,
4. The failing economy.
1. Security Situation: Progress in Sirte - Oil Crescent Under Fire
On the eve of Eid Al Adha, the fragile peace in Libya’s Oil Crescent has suffered a fierce blow when units of the Libyan National Army under the command of General Khalifa Haftar attacked the oil terminals and ports in the Oil Crescent area. This area was under the control of forces loyal to the Presidency Council.
I was concerned that this might happen. This development will further hinder oil exports, deprive Libya of its only source of income, and increase the division of the country.
This has to stop.
Libyan natural resources belong to all Libyans. They must be protected and exported legally under the authority of the Presidency Council. Otherwise, Libya’s citizens will pay the price.
I therefore called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and urged all parties to avoid inflicting any damage to the oil facilities. I also urged to respect Security Council’s resolution 2259 which recognizes the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord as the sole executive authority of Libya. Differences must be resolved through dialogue, not military force.
I have many times sought to engage with General Haftar to encourage him to embrace dialogue. However, my repeated attempts have so far been without success.
On a positive note, forces loyal to the Presidency Council made impressive progress to oust ISIS from its last remaining stronghold in Libya, in Sirte. Very soon, ISIS will no longer hold territory in Libya.
However, the terrorist threat in Libya and beyond will remain and it will require continued vigilance.
I would like to pay tribute to the more than 500 brave Libyans who sacrificed their lives and the 2,500 who were injured in the fight against ISIS in Sirte; but very important, my thoughts also go to the many thousands who fell while fighting the scourge of terrorism in other parts of Libya, in particular Benghazi.
I also want to thank those who supported the operation to rid Sirte of terrorism at the request of the Presidency Council, particularly the US for its air support which without any doubt has saved many lives, striking numerous car bombs before they reached their targets, and strengthened the Presidency Council's ability to defeat ISIS in Sirte.
I would also like to thank those Member States, which provided medical support, either in their territories or inside Libya. The fight against ISIS is a Libyan-led fight, but the defeat of ISIS in Libya benefits the entire region.
Civilian and military authority needs to be established in Sirte and security restored. To this end, we convened a meeting with key ministers of the Government of National Accord last week to develop a plan after the liberation of Sirte.
Reconstruction efforts in Sirte must be a model case, also for other places like Benghazi. You will recall my constant appeals for a reconstruction fund for Benghazi after security is restored.
Libya still remains a launch pad for thousands of migrants. This year alone, 112,000 migrants reached Italy’s shores from Libya. Three thousand migrants drowned in the Mediterranean, and many thousands died in the desert on their way.
This senseless loss of so many human lives is simply unacceptable.
Both the fight against terrorism and the flow of migrants are symptoms of Libya’s lack of unified and effective security institutions.
Institutions to secure Libya’s borders.
Institutions to control the circulation of weapons.
And Institutions to break the criminal networks who prey on the vulnerable.
The security situation in Tripoli is still very fragile. In this context, I welcome the nomination of the commanders of the Presidential Guard. This is the first step in bringing the new Libyan security units under the full authority of the Presidency Council.
On 5 August, we convened the first high-level security meeting with over fifty key Libyan security actors to discuss proposals for improving security in Tripoli and in the country.
However, further progress will only be possible if all Libyan security actors from East, West and South agree on a unified chain of command, with the Presidency Council as the Supreme Commander of the Libyan army. This requires the active engagement and commitment of the international community.
Let me now come to my second point:
2. Political Developments: New Momentum
The formation of an effective Government of National Accord is critical for the transition period in Libya. After months of political stalemate, the House of Representatives on the 22 August decided to reject the current Government of National Accord. Nevertheless, this decision is a new opening for the Presidency Council to solicit the endorsement of a unity government.
Efforts must now be exerted to ensure that the House of Representatives and the Presidency Council work together towards meeting this important milestone.
In this regard, the role of the Libyan Political Dialogue has remained relevant. Since my last report to you, I convened the Libyan Political Dialogue twice to create additional political space and leverage to forge a way through the political impasse.
Although there are differences of opinion on the Libyan Political Agreement, even critics and opponents recognize its framework and its value. It remains the only way forward in Libya’s transition.
There is no alternative.
Here, I would like to thank Member States for their unity and support for the Libyan Political Agreement, in particular their strong political support to the Presidency Council.
It is, however, vital that this political support be reflected by practice on the ground, by all in Libya and outside. Parallel Libyan institutions not coming under the GNA shall not be supported, for them red carpets should not be rolled out.
During the last meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue last week on 5 and 6 September, the following lines were discussed and a political way forward was suggested.
(1) The Presidency Council should seize the opportunity created by the return of the two boycotting members to become an effective institution. All members should agree on a revised list of government ministers now. I welcome the intention of the Presidency Council to consult with the main Libyan stakeholders, and reiterate my request to reserve 30 per cent of the posts for women.
(2) The House of Representatives should meet with ALL its members in an atmosphere free of intimidation to discuss the Constitutional amendment and the endorsement of the Government of National Accord. I will continue to encourage all members of the House of Representatives, including the boycotters, to join the sessions.
(3) I also call for the presence of Libyan and international observers, let say from the Arab League and others, during these crucial sessions of the House of Representatives.
I urge all political actors to truly show statesmanship, leadership and cohesion for the sake of the Libyan men, women and children who just want to have their lives back.
I come to my third point: the question of
3. National Reconciliation: Inspiring First Steps
On 31 August, UNSMIL kick started a round of discussions with Libyan and international experts on national reconciliation. It is but a small first step of a process leading towards healing the wounds of the past. We should help the Libyans find in themselves the willingness to forgive and overcome the past, and to build a new future together.
No reconciliation will succeed if the next generation does not actively participate. Seventy per cent of the population in Libya are under the age of 35 and this key part of the society must be given a voice and be able to shape Libya’s future. Brain drain is a serious problem for Libya.
One inspiring example of reconciliation I would like to mention is the agreement signed between the representatives of the cities of Misrata and Tawergha on 31 August, also two weeks ago. The agreement is the product of months of courageous and determined efforts by the two parties, facilitated by our Human Right Division, and I want to congratulate all involved. I am happy that after many years, the internally displaced will finally be able to start returning to their homes before the end of the year. This agreement should give hope to all of the 435,000 internally displaced people in the country.
I come to my last and often neglected point:
5. The Economic Situation: Strong Action Needed
Distinguished Members of the Council,
All our efforts can only succeed if the Libyans address the country’s growing economic crisis. Libya is a resource-rich country, but its economy is on the road to collapse.
Oil production is at its lowest point ever with only about 200,000 barrels per day, compared to 1,4 million barrels after the Revolution. Government spending on salaries and subsidies is at 93% of its total budget. 1,6 million out of 6 million Libyans – more than one person per family – are on the payroll of the Central Bank. The country is running a 75% budget deficit.
This has resulted in the imposition of strict capital controls and the lack of liquidity. Libyans are frustrated that they cannot access their own money and that their currency is rapidly losing its value.
The fundamentals of the economy need to be addressed urgently. Libya will not be able to rely for long on its foreign reserves. War economy must give way to the economy of peace. Oil production must resume and expenditure must be commensurate to the needs of the country. To do so, it is imperative that the pipelines open, Libyan financial institutions become unified, and a national budget is approved.
Libya is at a crossroads. While political space has opened and progress is being made in the fight against terrorism, the political divisions underlying the conflict are deepening.
Today more than ever, strong action is needed to convince Libyan stakeholders to build institutions that are open, participatory and able to address the needs of all of its citizens.
Finally, please allow me to say thank you to a dear colleague who is leaving the Mission, Deputy SRSG, Ali Al-Za’tari, for his distinguished service as Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya. I always appreciated his insightful analysis and his consistent and resolute advocacy of protecting the weak and the vulnerable ones in the Libyan society. I wish him best of luck for the extremely difficult challenges that he will be facing in his new duties as Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria.
Distinguished Members of the Council,
I am looking forward to the ministerial meeting on Libya on the 22nd of September on the margins of the General Assembly to demonstrate the cohesion and determination of the international community in helping the Libyans consolidate the gains achieved so far, and address the burning questions.
Thank you very much.